Saturday, May 24, 2008

Things Willie Learned Today

1. Heat Hurts
2. Running in the heat hurts bad
3. Running 26.2 miles in the heat hurts REALLY bad
4. Hitting the wall at mile 9 of a marathon is demoralizing
5. Finishing a marathon after hitting the wall at mile 9 feels REALLY good
6. I have wonderful, wonderful friends who skip movies to wait at the finish to make sure I'm OK
7. I have wonderful, wonderful friends who call me before a race just to say HI.
8. It's good to have wonderful, wonderful friends
9. Your time in a marathon doesn't tell the whole story. It's only a small piece of the story.
10. Mostly I learned that Willie is human. Willie has limits. Willie reached a limit today.

Marathoning is hard. I think I had forgotten that in the last few weeks. I have written before about my love for the marathon coming from the fact that many things go into making a good marathon and so many more things can make one go wrong. Well today I was reminded of that. Today I was reminded of how hard running a marathon is, and how proud we should all be for having done it. My PR at the OKC marathon clouded this view and a higher power decided that I needed to be humbled a little. It hurt, but I love it.

I ran the Andy Payne (fitting) marathon this morning. When I stepped out the door at 5:00 A.M. it was 78 degrees and 60-70% humidity. It didn't get any better. I started slow because I was afraid of the heat but by mile 9 I knew it was over. I had to let my running partner (Reese) go and walk. I WALKED AT MILE 9 OF A MARATHON! I cannot express to you how low I felt at that point. I had so many miles to go and I just couldn't run another step.

SIDEBAR: The Andy Payne marathon is run around Lake Overholser in SouthWestern OKC. It is a 3 lap race. That's right, you run around that d$#@n$ lake 3 times! Mile 9 is the end of the first lap. I had 2 more to go...

During the race I went through stages where I was sweating heavily and times when I didn't sweat at all and every hair on my body was standing on end. I was thirsty, then sick to my stomach from drinking too much. I repeated the above cycles many times. I could not stay hydrated. IT WAS HOT! I know, I know, "Willie, you love the heat...". Well today I didn't and I think it was more the humidity than the heat. I just couldn't cool off and couldn't find a comfortable stride.

After mile 9 I decided on a run 2 walk 1 strategy. I figured this was my only hope of finishing this race. That worked for most of the next lap and got me to mile 18. I refused to look at my Garmin. I quickly got over my anger with my projected time and realized that I love doing this. Even in these tough conditions, I love running marathons. So how could I be upset with a slow time? I was out at a beautiful lake, it was sunny (i.e. I was tanning my flab), and I was doing something I love. Screw the time, I'm just going to finish this race and not hang my head! By God, I'm a marathoner and it doesn't matter if I run 10 hours or 3:39, I'm still a marathoner and who cares what others may think.

Ok now back to the task at hand. EVERYTHING hurt on the last lap. I was dying of thirst and no matter how much I drank I couldn't get satisfied. My feet were forming blisters everywhere because I wasn't running my normal stride I was shuffling. My back ached because I was hunched over with my head hanging. I wasn't wearing a shirt and I knew I was burning from the sun. I only managed to run about a 1/2 mile at a time on that last lap. I could walk pretty fast though. I was keeping it under 13 minute/mile when I was walking. I met a new friend from
Tulsa as we walked together for most of the last lap. He was really struggling with the heat also. "brutal" was the word that kept coming to our lips. It was brutal. Brutal in every sense of the word. The temperature was well over 85 by then and the humidity hadn't dropped much. The only relief was a South breeze that kicked your butt going into it and was washed out by the trees when it was at your back. Thanks to whoever decided to run that direction around the lake, thanks.

I made it to mile 22 and decided that I should try to run the rest of the way in. So I did. It wasn't much of a run, but it was running. My son found me at mile 25 and ran with me to the finish. I couldn't say much to him and I think he realized that Dad was hurting beyond anything he had ever seen so he kept quiet also. It was WONDERFUL having him run with me. I couldn't tell him that but I loved that he was there. There was a water stop about 1/2 mile from the finish line. I stopped and drank. Kinda funny now, but at the time I was thirsty and didn't care that the finish line was in sight. I wanted a drink and a walk break. I shuffled across the finish line in 4:27. My worst marathon yet but in some ways it was the best. I think I learned more about myself and my limits in this one than I did in my best one.

That is important. I'm ?? years old and I am still learning new things about myself. I hope I never stop.
Your (and my) life are gifts, we are given this wonderful thing that has so much potential and it's a shame to go through life thinking you know everything you need to know. This body I have can do so much more than I think it can and I want to explore it's potential until I am worm-food. I never knew my potential for love until I had children, I never knew my potential for joy until I had some really good friends, I never knew my potential for success until I overcame my fears, I never knew my potential for pain until I ran a marathon. These are just small slivers of light shining through the keyhole. So much more awaits if I (we) have the courage to push through the door.

Thank you Andy Payne.

After the race I discovered that I placed 2nd in my age group and got a great trophy. It was a nice end to a roller-coaster race.

Thanks for listening


Southbay Girl said...

I'm so happy and proud to call you a friend! I feel this could be your best race even though, timed, it was your worst! You've found the joy in running, under what I consider, hell conditions!!!! I probably wouldn't have run-but you did!You rocked it and placed- that is exceptional!!! You are a hero in your sons' eyes! Remember that!!!!! And you're a hero in my eyes as well!

I'm glad you consider me a friend! And I'm glad that at 3am in the morning I remembered you were running today! Even though I was a walking zombie and was drinking wine at 3:30am! You put a smile on my face listening to your excitement and trepidations about your race!!! You knew it was going to be hard-and you still conquered it!!! And your time even though you ran and walked it faster than I've run my three marathons!!!

You rock!!!!!

Reese said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reese said...

Man oh man. I've run ultras that were easier than the Andy PAIN Marathon. Great job on hanging in there until the finish.

Calyx Meredith said...

The new blog layout is fun and the story of your marathon is inspiring. Willie - you are an amazing guy. So many, many people would get completely caught up in the disappointment of the numbers and you moved past that. Thank you for sharing your insights with us! And please baby yourself as you recover!

RBR said...

Umm, honey, we need to have a talk. It is very difficult to feel sorry for your "slow time" when you place second in your age group. I am just sayin'

You are truly my hero. I can't believe how much running you have done since your freakin' AMAZING OKC marathon.

Rock on, my friend, rock on!

BTW, I have examined the photographic evidence, you have no flab, so that part is BS too. ;o)

Amy@RunnersLounge said...

Wow - what a story! Congratulations on your marathon - everything from running after "meeting" the wall early, and then the 13 minute miles (while walking) and of course the trophy.

Great story!


Southbay Girl said...

Have a great week!!

Wow runners lounge visited your blog! that means you're a big-time runner!!